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November 2021 - Returning to Give Thanks

It’s November, and our thoughts turn to the Thanksgiving holiday later this month. Sadly, there can be fear and trepidation that go along with Thanksgiving, or any big holiday gathering. Lurking behind the turkey with all the trimmings are fears of conversations around the dinner table that can go off the rails. There can be disagreements or even arguments around the table about a host of things that alienate people from one another, including members of the same family. Unkind or even untrue things can be said that leave everyone in a less than festive mood. What to do?

The Gospel lesson appointed to be read in worship for Thanksgiving is the story of Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19 ESV - Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers - On the way - Bible Gateway). Take a moment to read through this. The upshot of this passage of Scripture is that after having been cleansed of their leprosy, only one out of the ten persons healed returned to give thanks to Jesus. From Jesus’ remarks, we do know that the one who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan. What about the other nine lepers? We are not told who they were or where they came from. Leprosy was a much-feared disease of the ancient world (Leprosy (Hansen's disease) (who.int) that often left people terribly disfigured. Additionally, lepers were forced to leave their homes and live together in leper colonies in order not to infect others. Further, these individuals were considered ritually unclean, and so were isolated from the worship life of Israel. The Torah contained very specific guidelines for identifying and handling leprosy (Leviticus 13 ESV - Laws About Leprosy - The LORD spoke to - Bible Gateway).

The point is that this one individual, healed of his disease, returned to give thanks to Jesus. In our own lives, we may not have experienced such a dramatic gift from the Lord’s hand, but do we remember to return and give thanks for the blessings that we have received? Even when everyone else around us fails to do so (like the other nine lepers), returning to give thanks to the Lord for blessings received is the right thing to do.

Will our giving of thanks this year be diminished because of circumstances in life? So often we equate material goods with God’s blessings, and when those material goods are in short supply or removed entirely, we may be tempted to think that God has withdrawn his blessing from us. Not true! Read through what Jesus has to say in Matthew 5:1-12 ESV - The Sermon on the Mount - Seeing the - Bible Gateway and Luke 6:20-26 ESV - The Beatitudes - And he lifted up his - Bible Gateway about what it means to be blessed. As Dr. Harry Wendt, author of Crossways! Bible study, puts it: “Jesus never links being blessed to acquiring material goods. He links it only to devoting life to reflecting His servant ministry in all we think, say, and do” (Crossways! Leader’s Manual, p. 14).

As we think about blessings in life, consider Paul the apostle’s words: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13). To be content in life – that is a true gift!

And how richly blessed we are to know God as our Maker and Redeemer! Even if all the material goods we possess (which aren’t really ours in the first place – they are just on loan from God to us to manage) were taken away, our relationship with that gracious God remains intact. So, whether we have a lot or a little, let us offer thanks and praise to God for the deeper and richer blessings in life that go far beyond material goods. Like that Samaritan who had been healed, let us return and give thanks.

For the Christian, Thanksgiving is not just a one-day event in late November, but an on-going, daily process by which we offer ourselves, our time, our possessions – all that we are and have – as an offering of thanks to the Lord, all in response to his mercy and grace. Thanksgiving leads into thanksliving as we look not only to our own needs, but to the needs of others. May it be so with each one of us.